To absolutely nobody’s surprise, Donald Trump announced Friday that he is nominating the acting chief of the Environmental Protection Agency, Andrew Wheeler, to become its administrator.
Three things can be expected from this replacement of the disgraced grifter Scott Pruitt: little or no spending of taxpayers’ money for personal gain and probably no other ethics scandals, a better understanding of but no better attitude toward environmental law and regulations, and big fat smiles for the fossil-fuel energy companies he used to represent as a lawyer and lobbyist. Key client: Murray Energy Corporation, owned and run by Bob Murray, a ruthless 21st Century coal baron with a taste for wholesale violation of mining regulations and a roster of dead miners to prove it.
In support of Donald Trump’s campaign in 2016, Murray said the “so-called global warming is a total hoax.” Wheeler himself has, as Marianne Lavelle wrote last April, stuck with the Trump script of avoiding outright denial, saying at a hearing a year ago, “I believe that man has an impact on the climate, but it’s not completely understood what that impact is.”
Trump made the impromptu announcement during a Medal of Freedom ceremony at the White House, saying that Wheeler had done a “fantastic job” as the agency’s acting administrator in recent months. Wheeler took the help of the agency in early July after Scott Pruitt resigned amid mounting ethics scandals.
During his brief tenure as EPA’s acting chief, Wheeler has proven far different than the man he replaced. Where Pruitt was a politician who enjoyed the limelight and the trappings of Cabinet life, Wheeler has long worked behind the scenes on energy and environmental policy and generally avoids the spotlight.
Wheeler must be confirmed by the Senate, but that’s highly unlikely to be a problem with that body still in control of Republicans, including his old boss, Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, arguably the most extremist of the 200 or so climate science deniers in both houses of Congress.
Wheeler’s connection to coal goes deep. He was until earlier this year vice president of the Washington Coal Club, a group of some 300 coal producers, legislators, and business honchos who have pushed policies to keep the dirtiest fossil fuel from being abandoned. Maintaining that stance has become far harder as coal-fired power plants continue to be closed by campaigns of environmental advocates and by economics. DeSmog has thoroughly scrutinized Wheeler’s background here.
Jeff Turrentine wrote last April:
The line on Wheeler from people in the know is that he’s essentially Scott Pruitt’s ideological twin—but that his many years as a Washington insider have endowed him with a political savvy that Pruitt sorely lacks. Were the increasingly embattled Pruitt to leave, few believe that this replacement would deviate from Pruitt’s path of rolling back protections, propping up the moribund coal industry, and putting energy company profits ahead of public health.
From all accounts, Wheeler doesn’t appear to be a paranoid, self-aggrandizing morale destroyer with a highly developed taste for taxpayer-funded first-class travel. He has more friends than enemies in Washington and seems unlikely to shoot himself in the foot or otherwise self-destruct. In the end, that might actually make Wheeler even more dangerous than Pruitt—not less.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.